"Almost all the members of North Korea’s incumbent leadership at various stages of their careers were punished, purged, sent to receive "revolutionary re-education" (many of them more than once) and even removed from political life - Kim Yong Ju, Kim Il Sung’s younger brother, was banned for two decades. But, Kim Il Sung, the founder of the clan and its patriarch, usually did not resort to "extreme" measures against his clan’s members and close friends from the “partisan” period, and most often eventually returned the guilty ones to his entourage. Kim Jong Il, in general, followed this line, too. Even Chang Song-Taek – the seemingly almighty husband of Kim Jong Il’s sister, who was in fact Kim Jong Il’s deputy for party affairs, suddenly disappeared in 2004. He re-emerged two years later, in January 2006 and was entrusted with running one of the key WPK Central Committee’s divisions, the Department of Administrative Organs, reportedly established especially for him.
Such methods have enhanced, to some extent, the effectiveness of state machinery, providing it with new vigor and very often shifting the responsibility for the Great Leader’s wrong decisions to low-level officials. At the same time, such arbitrary practices which entail the loss of face and public humiliation of rather respectable people who themselves, as a rule, are heads of their own clans, could hardly contribute to broadening the ranks of genuine supporters of the Kim clan. Most of those who were purged have already died, but their children know well their fathers’ life stories and may be waiting for the time to take revenge.
In this context some experts’ claims that Chang Song Taek is allegedly a “regent” for the new leader seems unconvincing. Also unlikely is the emergence of a duumvirate or tandem rule with Chang Song Taek. In North Korea there is an absolute leader around whom power is concentrated. And other members of the leadership (usually referred to as “relevant employees”) will compete only for the opportunity to have the leader’s ear more frequently than others. Certainly, family members (as scholars know from the history of other countries) are often placed closer to the ruler, and they may therefore enjoy greater confidence. So Chang Song Taek and his wife’s influence, especially in matters of domestic policy and the selection of personnel, may well be among the weightiest.
When assessing the likelihood of personnel changes in the future, it is important to bear in mind that, as the experience of the DPRK has shown, a formal position held by a person in the North Korean official hierarchy often does not reflect his or her real political weight. After Kim Il Sung’s death, as representatives of the old guard were leaving the political arena because of their physical condition, Kim Jong Il rather quickly picked up as his closest aids the officials who did not belong to the highest ranks - they were neither the elderly members of the Politburo nor ministers but rather the younger and more capable first deputy directors of the most important departments of the WPK Central Committee. Chang Song Taek has emerged from exactly this level of party functionaries. Moreover, considering the age of most members of North Korea’s top leadership (among the Politburo’s thirty-three members and alternate members, eleven people are over eighty, twelve over seventy, and only one under sixty years old), the repetition of this scenario of leadership change during the next two or three years looks quite possible. Thus, if Kim Jong Un manages to stay in power for the next several years, he has every chance of surrounding himself with much younger aids, whom he would choose himself.”
-Alexander Zhebin, pp. 261-62.